Want to Get Faster? My 3 Favorite Speed Workouts

You might not know it now, but I used to be kind of fast. No, not like elite level, blow your mind fast. More like pretty fast for a normal person. A sub-20 5k. A 42 minute 10k. Times good enough to get me a few age awards, and an occasional overall win (in a small town). A 1:33 half marathon and a 3:16 marathon. I once got 5th in my age group in the Honolulu Marathon (30,000 runners!). Ah, memories.

running faster

On my way to 3:16:38. I was 41.

Well, that was then. I was in my early 40s, by the way, having started running at 37. Now, as you know, my goal is to break 2:00 in the Costume Party Run in July. A knee injury and a few years have happened, and goals change.

The Process is the Same

The thing is, now matter what your fitness level, your age, your abilities, the process is the same. If you want to get faster you have to, well, run faster. Science may come up with new ways to track your training, coaches may design new killer workouts, you can add strength training, plyometrics, stretching, foam rolling, whatever. The truth is the same.

You must run faster.

My 3 Favorite Speed Workouts

Favorite is a funny word. Running faster is hard. When I do these workouts, I hate them. They make me push to my limits. But, when I’m done, I feel amazing. And when they work (and they do!), I love them.

1. My Favorite Interval (VO2 Max) Workout: These type of workouts are generally short to moderate distance (think 400-1600 meters), frequently run on a track, designed to improve how your body uses oxygen.

My favorite workout of this type is the Ladder Workout. After warming up for a mile, do these intervals in order, at about 95-100% of your effort level (this can be measured by heart rate or perceived exertion): 200m, 400m, 800m, 1000m, 1600m, 1000m, 800m, 400m, 200m. Take a 30-45 second break between each interval.

Why I love it: First of all, I like that each interval is different. While I appreciate knocking out 16 400m repeats (and they do have great value), I like the variety of the Ladder Workout. Plus, on the way back down, there is something wonderful about knowing that your next interval is going to be shorter. Any light toward the end of the tunnel.

2. My Favorite Tempo (Lactate Threshold) Workout: Your lactate threshold is the point at which your body cannot keep up with processing the lactic acid it produces during hard exercise and responds by needing to slow down. This type of workout usually involves slightly longer intervals that the VO2 Max workouts, run at a slightly slower pace, your lactate threshold pace. This is a little slower than your 10k pace, or about 85-90% of your effort level. You’ll find a more detailed description in this post.

My favorite workout of this type is a Steady Pace Tempo run. After warming up by running moderately for about a mile, pick it up to your Lactate Threshold pace. Sustain it for two-six miles. Finish with a moderate to slow mile.

Why I love it: I sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it? No fancy pick ups, run this at one pace that at another. Which is exactly why this is my favorite tempo run. To me in simulates race conditions. You don’t stop (hopefully) in a race, you try to keep a fairly steady pace throughout the distance of the run.

3. My Favorite Long Run Workout: You can get a lot of opinions about at which pace to run your long run. Some will say it should be done slowly, or it takes too much of a toll on your body. Others will say that if you run too slow, your body gets used to running slow. The most frequent recommendation is to run about a minute slower that your goal pace. But every now and then, it is fun to shake things up.

My favorite workout of this type is what I call a Negative Split run. I usually doing it during a cut back week, so that if you are training for a half, a good distance would be about nine miles. For a marathon, up to about 16 miles works well. Basically I cut the run into thirds, the first third run about 30 seconds slower that your goal race pace, the second third at pace, and the final third 30 seconds faster than race pace.

Why I love it: This workout is great for teaching you to run fast when you’re tired. Making yourself “up the ante” and run faster challenges your body, sure, but it also teaches your mind that you can push through.

I promise, if you incorporate one or two of these workouts once or twice a week, you will get faster.

These are my favorite workouts, but I still mix in a variety of workouts of each type during training. It keeps training interesting and challenging. I am sure that you have some favorite workouts and I hope that you will share in the comments.

Disclaimer: Although I am a certified Coach and Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Coach or Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.